Saturday, November 05, 2011
Hungarian Jewish Literature (Without Jews)
The assimilation of Hungarian Jewry created the phenomenon of a Jewish literature in Hungarian that described the Jewish experience and its actors are Jewish, yet masquerading as Hungarian literature describing ethnic Hungarian experience.
I remember the "A Pál utcai fiúk" children's book that I had to read in primary school. Molnar Ferenc, the author was Jewish although no one knew that in my time, told the story of a patriotic Budapest street gang defending the "grund", their sacred territory (see the street statues in today's Budapest). Three of the group can be easily identified as Jews, for example, little Weisz carries a Jewish name and tends to act as an antisemite caricature. Yet there is no doubt that the author describes his own experiences, only that he deforms and camouflages critical details to erase any Jewish identity. Only the leader of the gang is (exaggeratedly) pure ethnic Hungarian, fighting with his loyal crypto-Jewish troops to protect the grund, symbolizing sacred Hungarian homeland.
For more than a hundred years, Hungarian Jews tried to assimilate and hide their ethnic identity. No wonder that current antisemites are always searching for hidden Jews ruling their country and accuse every politician of being a crypto-Jew. But there are no Jewish street gangs in my old neighborhood.